Garrett, at national summit, says there is ‘moral imperative’ to commit to equity in health care

HMH CEO: ‘We can’t achieve our mission to transform health care and be the leader of positive change without tackling these inequalities’

Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Bob Garrett made his feelings on equity in health care delivery very clear during a health summit in Washington, D.C., last week.

“There’s a moral and strategic imperative to eliminate unacceptable gaps in outcomes based on race and ethnicity,” he said.

Garrett, speaking at a health care event sponsored by Politico, stressed that HMH has put health care equity at the forefront of all that it does.

“We can’t achieve our mission to transform health care and be the leader of positive change without tackling these inequalities,” he told the audience.

The crowd included Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and other national thought leaders.

Social determinants of health refer to the many factors that impact the well-being of an individual, including:

  • Access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity;
  • Level and quality of education;
  • Income level and job opportunities;
  • Safe and secure housing and neighborhood.

These social determinants often lead to particular types of health outcomes.

Garrett, who attended the event with a team of HMH officials — including Nicole Harris Hollingsworth, HMH’s vice president of social determinants of health, said HMH has made great progress combating these issues.

Last summer, HMH launched a partnership with Chicago-based NowPow that uses a digital platform to increase its ability to make personalized referrals to community resources such as food banks. It has exceeded all expectations.

HMH officials said the network has a goal of reaching 1.2 million patients in the first year, throughout Hackensack Meridian’s 17 hospitals and more than 500 patient care locations.

Garrett said the program is a necessity in today’s health care environment. Health care providers, he said, understand that they must focus beyond the radar of traditional health care to address issues that greatly impact health — housing and food insecurity, transportation issues, substance abuse and other social issues.

The goal is to eliminate gaps in health outcomes based on race, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors, Garrett said.

“Our mission is to transform health care, and part of this mission is creating innovative ways to bridge health equity gaps and ensure that all patients achieve their best health,” he said.

These health care thought leaders joined Garrett at the event:

  • Dr. Gary Small, behavioral health physician in chief for HMH;
  • Dr. Stanley Terlecky, vice dean of research at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine;
  • Dr. Akash Shah, a White House fellow and founding medical director of Project HEAL at Jersey Shore University Medical Center;
  • Dr. Lainey Bukowiec, a member of the inaugural class of Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine who is beginning a residency in orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic this summer;
  • Kevin Slavin, CEO and president of St. Joseph’s Health.